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A rather lame defense of Michael Turner

by  in Comic News Comment

All right, even though Ragnell may get grumpy with me, I’m still going to defend Michael Turner (rather lamely, though)!  Let’s go under the fold!

So Michael Turner and his abominable drawings have been the buzz of the comics blogaxy for a time, and let’s face it – whether you love them (which I guess a LOT of people do) or hate them (which I hope a lot of people do), there’s no denying that the man gets people talking.  Recently, of course, everyone was a-twitter over the cover of JLA #10:


Yes, it’s Power Girl.  Yes, Brad Meltzer actually made a joke about asking Turner to reduce them (God, I hope it was a joke) and said he calls them “the bottled cities of Kandor.”  Oh, the humor!  But let’s not get into the ramifications of this yet.  This is a fairly typical Michael Turner drawing – the ubiquitous “porn face,” the odd poses, and the impossible anatomy.  Turner has made a living with stuff like this, so the fact that he did it to Power Girl, whose sole defining characteristic throughout her entire existence (as a fictional character, that is) has been that she has big boobs, isn’t terribly surprising.  But let’s move on.

As I was wandering around cyberspace, I came across a link to an article about the “Top 20 Hot Female Athletes (That Actually Still Sorta Do Something Athleticy).”  Now, ignoring the fact that the authors of the article refer to the female athletes with the pronoun “that” instead of “who,” on the side of the article was an advertisement for the magazine that is published by the people who do the web site.  Let’s check it out, shall we?


This is an actual female human.  Look at her!  (Her name is Jillian, by the way.)  I realize that it’s probably airbrushed, but check out Jillian’s midsection.  It is, if you’ll allow me to compare, almost freakishly comic bookey.  It just doesn’t look real, yet she is, as I mentioned, an actual female human.  Weird.

So what’s my point?  Well, let’s go back to Turner.  It seems the criticism of Turner boils down to a few points:

a) He draws women so that people buying his comics (mostly, let’s be honest, men between 20-40) will believe all women look like that and have unrealistic expectations for women they meet, therefore ruining their chances to have an actual relationship;

b) He draws women so that impressionable young ladies, say under the age of 20, will believe this is what men like so that they will diet until their ribs protrude from their bodies and they will get plastic surgery until their breasts cause them to fall forward;

c) The drawing really, really, really, really sucks.

Now, let’s be honest: does b) really apply?  Are girls who might be traumatized by Kara’s ungainly body really buying Justice League?  I’m not saying they’re not, but I do have a hard time believing it.  Maybe Meltzer’s epic is a huge hit among the tween set.  This doesn’t necessarily excuse Turner, but the fact that impressionable young girls probably don’t even see his drawings does mitigate his guilt a bit.  JUST A TINY BIT!  As for a), well, anyone who thinks that doesn’t deserve an actual woman anyway, and they should die alone.  As for Power Girl, it’s not really Turner’s fault that she has, as I mentioned, big boobs.  I have no idea who created Power Girl, but ever since I first saw her (in Justice League Europe, I think), she’s had big boobs.  Giffen and DeMatteis and any editors working at DC didn’t tell Bart Sears, “Hey, could you tone down the breasts a bit?”  So there’s that.

My point is that Michael Turner’s drawing seems far less egregious to me than the magazine cover.  This is a magazine for men, obviously, but it’s just an example of print advertising being far more widespread and noticeable than comic book covers.  If the insult of Turner’s drawing is to impressionable teens who get a skewed body image because of it, then there are far worse and far more mainstream examples.  Print ads and television commercials and music videos are everywhere, and girls can’t avoid them.  They can, however, avoid Turner’s awful drawings.  And the print ads and commercials and videos show actual humans.  Girls looking at a drawing of Power Girl would, presumably, know that she’s fake.  Girls looking at Pamela Anderson might think that she’s not fake.  Girls watching many music videos might think that all men treat women like, you know, hos (I just learned that word from Don Imus, by the way!).

And then there’s the Minx line.  First of all, this comic line that we’ve been told is marketed to teenaged girls is named “Minx,” which means “a pert, impudent, or flirtatious young girl,” implying that young girls should act that way, but let’s move beyond that.  For one of their new titles, Clubbing, they got Josh Howard for the art, who likes to draw girls like this:


I’m certainly not saying Howard is going to draw the teens in Clubbing this way, but if girls read that and want to find out more about him, they will find dangerously skinny girls in a variety of slutty outfits.  Turner’s “superhero porn” isn’t adorning a flagship title of a line of comics aimed at girls, is all I’m saying.

As you can tell, I’m not really defending Michael Turner’s awful art as much as asking how awful it is.  We have:

a) A horrible drawing of a superhero on a book that is primarily targeted to male adults;

b) An artist who enjoys drawing women who look like teenagers dressed in revealing outfits on a title marketed to teenaged girls;

c) Mainstream advertising that teenaged girls really can’t avoid telling them that they have to live up to an impossible body image.

My question is, What are we really complaining about when we complain about Michael Turner?  Are we complaining about his detrimental effect on the psyches of young girls?  If so, that’s fine, but again, there are far bigger targets we should be going after.  Are we complaining about the shitty art?  That’s fine too, and he certainly deserves it.  There are a lot of shitty artists out there, but few are as high-profile as Turner, so he’s a good target.

Finally, the question becomes What can we do about it?  Mainstream advertising is difficult to contend with, because it’s so pervasive.  JLA, however, sells only a few hundred thousand copies each time it comes out.  It’s by far DC’s best-selling title, but it still doesn’t reach a lot of people.  The people who are angry about Turner’s portrayal of Power Girl need to put their money where their mouths are and boycott the book.  I don’t have much evidence, but it seems like a lot of people online who whine about the covers end up buying the book anyway.  Maybe they justify it by saying, “I hate the covers, but the story is good.”  Maybe they love DC comics in general.  Maybe they think Red Tornado is the greatest thing ever.  But guess what?  DC doesn’t care why you buy it.  As long as it’s the best-selling title, Michael Turner is going to be doing covers.  The only way that will change is if DC thinks his ridiculous women are hurting sales.

My point, ultimately, is I’m not sure if Michael Turner is the person everyone should be going after.  Maybe he is.  He’s certainly a crappy artist, but it seems like there are far worse examples marketed for the exact audience that would be influenced by this sort of thing.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I’d like to know: Are you offended by Turner’s representation of Power Girl, and if so, why?  Are you offended by commercials and print ads?  Are you offended by Josh Howard working on a book targeted to teenagers?  I don’t want to be snide, because I’m very interested in how we choose which things are worthy of our anger.  So chime in, and let’s be civil, shall we?